The five big Man Utd losers after Brighton humiliation

Carlo Garganese
Carlo Garganese Updated: 7 Aug 2022 16:09 BST 4 min read
Harry Maguire, Man Utd, 2022-23

A new season, the same old Manchester United.

Sunday’s opening Premier League game of the season against Brighton was supposed to herald the beginning of a new era at Old Trafford.

But just one match into his reign as Man Utd manager, the honeymoon period is already over for Erik ten Hag.

The Red Devils were beaten 2-1 in what a dismal afternoon for the home side, as Pascal Gross struck twice in the first half.

We look at the five biggest losers on the day.

Maguire-Martinez partnership

Harry Maguire endured a disastrous 2021-22 season, in which he was to blame for countless goals conceded.

Ten Hag has been very supportive of the Englishman since arriving and he started him alongside debutant Lisandro Martinez against Brighton at the heart of the defence.

But the pair had a shocker. Maguire was the most to blame for Brighton’s opener as he stepped up too late, allowing Danny Welbeck to run in behind and cross for Gross’ tap-in.

Maguire has often struggled in a high-line, high-press system due to his lack of pace and there will be concerns about this under Ten Hag.

Martinez was tidy in possession but erratic defensively and he was very lucky not to concede a penalty for a push on Welbeck.

McFred

For years now it has been painfully obvious how Man Utd’s centre of midfield is not good enough at the top level.

And yet in what was supposed to be a new era for Man Utd, Scott McTominay and Fred still started as the two deepest midfielders.

They were completely dominated by the brilliant Moises Caicedo, who ran the show until Fred was hauled off for Ronaldo at the start of the second half.

This is the reason why Ten Hag is so desperate to bring in Frenkie de Jong. It is very possible also that Christian Eriksen – who had a bright game – will be deployed deeper from now on.

Marcus Rashford

This is a do-or-die season for Marcus Rashford. The English attacker has seen his career take a downward surge in recent seasons and he really struggled last campaign.

His contract expires in a year and there is no guarantee he will still be a Man Utd player this time next year.

He was granted a starting shirt as the striker against Brighton, as Cristiano Ronaldo was left on the bench.

However, he failed to take his chance as he missed two sitters. He was then shifted over to the left when Ronaldo was brought on. United need more from Rashford and their attackers in general – with Sancho contributing little also.

David de Gea

David de Gea has divided the critics over recent years. Although he has been one of United’s better performers, there are those who also believe that he needs to be upgraded.

There have been reports that Ten Hag isn’t quite sure on De Gea’s suitability for his system long-term and he won’t have helped his cause on Sunday.

The Spaniard made a meal on Gross’ second goal, hopelessly parrying a weak effort into the path of the Brighton star to double the lead.

Chances of Ronaldo staying

If there was any chance of convincing Cristiano Ronaldo to stay at Man Utd this summer, then this defeat to Brighton will surely have ended those hopes.

Ronaldo was left on the bench at the start – presumably as punishment for his antics in recent weeks.

He was brought on in the second half and helped spark a much-improved Man Utd who halved the deficit but didn’t have enough quality to find an equaliser.

Cristiano’s body language told the story of a player who wants out and is frustrated by the players around him. If Jorge Mendes finds him a club, there’s no doubt he will leave.

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